In the eyes of those who don’t live in this country, Pakistan is a terrifying place and anyone who steps foot on this land is automatically in danger. I don’t fully blame those who have never visited Pakistan because their televisions and the internet tell them a very believable tale. But being a Pakistani, I believe it is our job to promote the good things that this country holds, one of which is the natural scenic beauty of the great North of Pakistan.
Running for approximately 200 kilometers in the North east of the capital of Azad Kashmir, Muzaffarabad, the Neelum Valley, also known as the blue gem, is one of the main assets of the great north of Pakistan. Making its way through the lesser Himalayas, this asset has magnificent scenic beauty: colossal hills on either side of the noisy river, exuberant green forests, charming streams and a pleasant atmosphere to top it all off.
The valley, which runs parallel to the Kaghan valley, separated by snow-covered mountains, connected to Muzaffarabad via Neelum Road. The two main towns in Neelam Valley are the capital, Athmaqum and Sharda town. One of the most historical places to visit in this valley is the Sharada Peeth, a temple dedicated to the goddess Sharda on the banks of the Neelum River.
The Hunza Valley, often refered to as heaven on earth, is a grandiose mountainous valley in Gilgit-Baltistan, stretching from Khizerabad, through Nasirabad, Murtazaabad, Attabad to Khunjerab. It consists of numerous high peaks consistently ranging over 6000 meters. These include the Ultar Sar, Rakaposhi, Bojahagur Duanasir, Ghenta Sar, Hunza Peak, Darmyani Peak, and Ladyfinger Peak.
One of the main places to visit in the Hunza Valley is the 12th highest peak in Pakistan, Rakaphosi. It is a part of the Karakorum Mountain range and it 7788 meters high. The meaning of Rakaposhi is “Shining Wall” because it is surrounded by glacier valleys like Bapru and Bagrot.
Another attraction great asset of Pakistan is the Baltit Fort. This is a 700 year old fort which used to be home to the rulers at that time. In 1996 it was changed to a museum and now serves as one of the main tourist attractions sitting at the top of Karimabad.
A mountaineer’s paradise, this asset of northern Pakistan is the name of the confluence of the Baltoro Glacier and the Godwin-Austen Glacier. It is a camp site approximately 4600 meters high. An array of mountain peaks are gathered at this breathtaking tourist attraction and four the world’s fourteen highest peaks, ranging about 8000 meters, are situated around the Concordia.
These for peaks include K-2 (8611 meters), the second highest mountain in the world, Gasherbrum I (8080 meters), Broad Peak (8051 meters), and Gasherbrum II (8035 meters). Serving as a common basecamp for all of these four peaks, this place is not only made for mountaineers, but also for camping enthusiasts, as it is one of the best camping sites with short treks to each of the base camps of the four mountain peaks.
This picturesque vast green plateau of Shandur Pass, rising up to 3734 meters, is a 12 hour journey away from Gilgit. This Pass is embedded firmly in the silk of Pakistani history as it carries immense historical importance. It was used as a trading route for centuries to trade goods between China, Gilgit, Afghanistan and Persia.
This mighty asset of Pakistan’s north makes it into this list for many reasons, one of which is the highest Polo field in the world situated on this Pass. The sport of Polo originated at this ground and is still played with its original rules. An annual Polo tournament takes place at this ground between the Gilgitis and the Chitralis. This festival is one which you do not want to miss and it really sets this asset of Pakistan apart from the rest, as it is not all just about the breathtaking mountains are the serene rivers.
It can easily be said that scenic beauty of the vast north of Pakistan is contained in the three grand mountain ranges: the Himalayas, the Karakorum and the Pamirs. Connecting all these ranges together and venturing into China is the 8th wonder of the world, the Karakorum Highway.
This 1284 kilometer long twisting and turning highway is the perfect road for the adrenaline junkie. The notion that this road is an engineering miracle is summed up by the fact that 810 Pakistanis and 82 Chinese died trying to force this road through extremely unstable terrain.
When the Indian subcontinent drifted northwards and collided with Asia, the Himalayas and Karakorums started to take shape at the boundary joining the two land masses. As a result there were massive earth quakes at this junction and these earthquakes continue even today as the Indian subcontinent continues to move north. The Karakorum Highway runs through the middle of this boundary and therefore it is estimated that at certain points, there are earthquakes every 5 or so minutes. That to an adventure lover is like high octane fuel to an engine.